The Hangout harks back to pre-condo days at GulfSunday, April 27, 2008 By KATHY JUMPERReal Estate Editor
Developer Shaul Zislin wanted to bring back the beach the one before condominiums lined the Gulf, when one-piece swimsuits were sexy, the only beer served was root beer, burgers were 25 cents, the DJ was a jukebox and cars had muscles.
His latest venture, The Hangout on the beach at Alabama 59 and 182, pays tribute to the original, open air Hangout that graced the Gulf Shores beach scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"You can't believe all the calls I've had from people who remember The Hangout," he said as he pointed to a worn, red buoy on the wall given to the restaurant by one of the original lifeguards. There's even a Hangout reunion scheduled there next weekend.
The 17,000-square-foot restaurant, which sits on 2.5 prime acres, opens Friday. The restaurant will employ 250 and features three outdoor bars, a 50-foot tower with a large movie screen for nostalgic beach movies and an outdoor stage for live entertainment.
The project is one of the largest private commercial ventures in several years. The area is part of four blocks at the city's main intersection being remade under the Envision Gulf Shores plan. The goal, set three years ago, was to create a walking district around the public beach and develop retail, restaurants, residential space and public parking.
Zislin also owns two other corners at the intersection. He had planned to build condominium units on one of the corners, but said last week that the market isn't ready. But, "we need entertainment," he said, so he put The Hangout on a fast-track to get it open by summer.
Harris Construction of Gulf Shores built the facility and got the certificate of occupancy in 105 days, Zislin added.
Local businesses are encouraged by the new project and hope it brings more activity to the beach.
The new restaurant "will get people down to the beach zone, which is what we want," said Eddie Spence, who co-owns the Shrimp Basket and owns Mikee's Seafood restaurants in Gulf Shores. He's hoping The Hangout will give some competition to Lulu's Restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway, which is owned by Lucy Buffett, sister of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett.
"The Hangout will enhance the visitors' stay in Gulf Shores, but I don't know that it will create more tourism," said Robert Craft, a Gulf Shores City Council member. "I see it like a Lulu's type of venue, with fun and entertainment for the family, and that's what we're all about. A lot of us that grew up here have fond memories of The Hangout."
It will be a destination, said Ty Smith, The Hangout's general manager who relocated from a restaurant in Sandestin.
The goal was to have customers eating on the beach with the Gulf breezes coming into the open-air dining room, according to Zislin. Large, automated, roll-up windows overlook the water, and all the seating is designed to give everyone a water view.
A 25-foot steel fan in the center of the main restaurant building keeps the interior cool. Memorabilia from earlier Hangout customers, photographs of past beach days, and local artists' works adorn the walls. The outside patio and entertainment area features sand, lots of it, and picnic tables, plus a fire pit and a huge playground.
The building's exterior sports a beach look with sun-kissed cypress wood. The outdoor decks feature bleached pine, and the parking is a mix of asphalt and crushed shells.
Zislin's wife, Lilly, helped with the interior decor and design. The architect was Sted McCollough, the engineers were Hutchinson Moore & Rauch and the new chef is Johnny Armstrong.
The Hangout has also been compared to The Wharf entertainment and retail complex on the Intracoastal Waterway. But Zislin said there's a difference. "We are within a stone's throw of the Gulf," he said. "The Wharf could be anywhere. This looks like a post card, but it's the real deal."
/cut/p42.8Left photo: The Hangout's general manager, Ty Smith, at left, and the owner and developer, Shaul Zislin, work on getting the project open. Right photo: The Hangout features outdoor dining overlooking the beach at Gulf Shores..
/cut/P45.10/cPhotos by VICTOR CALHOUN/ Chief Photographer
/cut/4/cVICTOR CALHOUN/Chief PhotographerThe Hangout in Gulf Shores brings back the nostalgic days of "meet me at the Hangout" at the beach in the 1950s and early 1960s. The new restaurant and entertainment complex on the beach at Alabama 59 and 182 opens Friday.